First operational mine expected to begin early next year

Mining: The State Mining Corporation Ltd. (SMCL) would mark its first anniversary next week, but a year after its incorporation, the government created corporation is yet to extract any mines overwhelmed with paper works.

The first mine, the SMCL seriously worked on since its incorporation on December 31 last year is the Bangtar coalmine, which is in final stages of implementation.

“Project inception and finalization involves a lot of procedural requirement and SMCL has obtained all mandatory clearances,” said the company’s general manager for sales and marketing, Sangay Rinzin with reference to the Bangtar coalmine.

The SMCL would be using the mine to supply coal to the Dungsam Cement plant in Nganglam. Since both companies are subsidiaries of DHI, it is beneficial for both.

As for the dolomite mining in Pugli, topographical survey and geological studies has been completed. Final mine feasibility study and environment impact assessment (EIA) outsourcing are in progress.

In the last one year, the general manager said SMCL has been studying and obtaining clearances for other three projects-Samrang coal mine, again in Bhangtar, Kamji quartzite and stone quarries for Kholongchhu Hydro Power Project.

Finding competent geologists had been the biggest hurdle for the SMCL. Earlier in March, only two men have been doing all ground works, including the recruitment process. The post of geologist and mining engineers has been re-announced then, owing to the dearth of geologists in the labour market.

Sangay Rinzin said the corporate office, at present has 23 employees recruited, including a mining specialist and mines manager. However, they are still in the process of recruiting a geologist. The need for geologist and mining engineers will depend on their projects.

He said the company is planning to recruit more professionals depending on the nature of activity and diversification, the company pursues.

While the terms of reference of the SMC suggests the company to act as wholesale exporter of minerals and mine strategic mineral, the general manager said, no mines are operated as yet and therefore no production. “The mines implementation process requires rigorous process with strong due diligence.”

An official, requesting anonymity said with the mineral development policy shelved for a very long time, it is not defined as to what are the strategic minerals. “The role of SMC and private miners are not distinguished as yet, if at all the role of the two are different and unless the government plans to nationalise mines,” he said.

Sangay Rinzin said as of now the SMCL has been following all due processes like community clearance, EIA and other norms mandated by mine and mineral rules and regulations.

He said getting public and other institutional clearances like EIA, Geological Report, and feasibility reports took longer time than expected.

In the coming year, the Bhangtar and Samrang coalmine is expected to begin extraction and Studies on stone quarries, dolomite and other minerals would continue.

“SMC will be focusing on developing major strategic and industrial minerals that will be of great importance to the domestic industry as feedstock and for the export market as well,” Sangay Rinzin said.

Tshering Dorji